Virginia Reed—“Ginnie” to her friends and admirers—just might be the Woman of Steel. At 82 years old, Reed’s blue eyes are still infused with the fire that drove her to begin competitive skiing at the age of 10, and which compels her to still rip it up on the slopes today.
Reed is racing again this year, she said, despite a nasty fall in April 2011. Reed said she was racing slalom on the last day of the USASA Snowboard and Freeski National Championship when she crashed—hard. She said she managed to ski down and, despite the amount of pain she was in, managed to make her way to the end-of-event party that night.
“I wasn’t going to miss the banquet,” she said. “So I used my ski poles for crutches and had a few glasses of wine to kill the pain.”
Reed said she began her drive home the next day, a two-day journey during which she said she felt okay. But the morning after she came home, she had her son take her to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center. There, doctors told her she had broken her pelvis in several places, as well as her femur. She later required surgery to repair the damage.
Reed said her doctors didn’t believe that she had managed to attend a banquet and drive for two days straight with the amount of pain she was in.
“[The doctor] just looked at me and said, ‘I don’t believe you,’” she said with a laugh.
Reed spent that summer in physical therapy and went on to race in Park City, Utah, and Mammoth Mountain in California in 2012.
“I came back to win everything,” she said with a grin.
Reed has been racing—very successfully—for more than seven decades, and she said she has no plans to stop any time soon.
“I don’t even know how many I have won!” Reed says when asked about her U.S. National Championships medals.
After going and counting the “Nationals jackets” given to winners that she keeps in one of her barns, she said that she’s probably won a dozen times, in addition to winning the Canadian National Championships three times, the Swedish National Championships once and the Masters World Criterium twice.
Reed said that her illustrious skiing career began when she was 10 years old and her family traveled to Yosemite National Park. Before this trip, Reed had been an avid ice skater, making a movie with Sonja Henie in 1939—two years before Henie’s “Sun Valley Serenade” was released and put the ski resort on the map.
Reed grew up in southern California, without a lot of opportunity to ski. But she said that as soon as she started, it was a natural fit for her.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said.
She started racing that year, and became the California Ski Queen in 1950, winning a grand tour of ski resorts in the West.
It was then that she discovered Sun Valley, she said.
“I just liked everything about it,” she said, both the ski area and the other activities available. Reed said she firmly believes that skiing is a winter activity—no summertime ski clinics for her—and so she loved the golfing, hiking and trap shooting that was available at the resort.
“When winter’s over, it’s over!” she said. “Time for summer activities!”
She said she used to race with former Sun Valley Resort owner Bill Janss, who eventually sold her a condominium, in which she lived until she felt Sun Valley was getting “too crowded.”
Reed now lives on a 120-acre ranch in the Bellevue Triangle. She said she used to raise horses and yellow Labs, but now the ranch is home to just her, her son, her grandson and a formerly-stray cat named Cat. “You remember the Audrey Hepburn movie?” she said of the cat’s name.
The Woman of Steel said she’d be competing again this year—of course—travelling to Big Sky, Mont., to compete nationally. She said she’s confident she’ll do well, despite her avoidance of the slalom last year.
“They had a hard time getting me near a pole,” she said, “[But] speed events don’t bother me at all.”
Kate Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org